2011 Dodge Avenger Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
November 30, 2010

A new V-6 and interior refresh makes the 2011 Dodge Avenger more intriguing, but in execution this mid-sizer still leaves a lot to be desired.

The mid-size 2011 Dodge Avenger sedan gets a new drivetrain, new suspension pieces and new front and rear clips as Chrysler tries to rehab the image of this rental-car mainstay.

The Avenger's sheetmetal carries over virtually unchanged. Change is good, but the Avenger already had a lock on brand unity with its mini-Charger stance and upkicked rear quarters. The headlamps and taillamps are simplified, but the crosshairs on the Avenger's grille trade metallic ribs for meatier bright-and-black pieces. Inside, the Avenger gets a new dash, which looks great, with convincing quantum leaps in style and materials. The Avenger's dash cap is sculpted a bit more over its gauges; the climate controls are streamlined, and rings of bright and matte metallic plastic are fine contrasts to most of the soft-touch plastic. The lower half of the Avenger's dash seems to wear lower-grade plastic than the 200, and some of the same carryover gauges and buttons are more noticeable, surrounded by better-quality bits.

A 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder carries over from last year's Avenger as the base engine in the 2011 Dodge Avenger, but the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is new across the board to the Chrysler lineup. The new V-6 drops 283 horsepower in the front-drive Avenger's engine bay, with 260 pound-feet of torque twisting through a six-speed automatic transmission. On the spec sheet, that's higher output than the new Sonata 2.0T turbo, the Fusion V-6 and the Regal GS. In practice, the smooth windup of the six just can't be controlled with the Avenger's small-car strut-and-multilink suspension. Mash the gas hard and the Avenger weaves on takeoff with corresponding steroidal twitches of torque steer before it takes a straight-ahead set. Chrysler's new six-speed automatic isn't the best companion for the power either.

Review continues below

The Avenger still has hydraulic power steering, augmented by a lower ride height in front than in back, which leaves it with more natural feedback and bite in its steering than most other mid-size sedans. Somehow, the effort still comes across as somewhat uninspired when matched with the powertrain issues, however.

The 2011 Dodge Avenger has roughly the same interior space found in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, or the latest Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy, some of TheCarConnection's most highly rated four-doors. Head room and leg room are equal to or better than most, though the Avenger's trunk is on the small side of the scale. But the Avenger suffers some for the mini-Charger style—especially in the back seat. While the Sonata's tall, airy greenhouse lets in plenty of light, the Avenger's tall shoulders and low roofline—and dark trim most everywhere inside save for the upholstery—feels more confining, even though its flat but wide front seats have enough acreage for the target market. Tucking into the back seats is a little trickier than in some competitors because of the body structure's higher sills and lower roof cutouts (disguised very well by tall door skins).

In five different trims, the 2011 Dodge Avenger spreads out standard features and options. The Express is the base edition; stepping up the ladder to Mainstreet, Heat, Lux and R/T models adds on new gear. All versions offer air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; 17-inch wheels; a split-folding rear seat; and cloth upholstery. Bluetooth, satellite radio and a USB port are unavailable on the base Avenger Express; they're standard or optional on other models.

7

2011 Dodge Avenger

Styling

The 2011 Dodge Avenger looks like a scaled-down (and slightly less convincing) version of the larger Charger, but improvements make the interior more cohesive.

The 2011 Dodge Avenger's sheetmetal carries over virtually unchanged. Change is good, but the Avenger already had a lock on brand unity with its mini-Charger stance and upkicked rear quarters. The headlamps and taillamps are simplified, but the crosshairs on the Avenger's grille trade metallic ribs for meatier bright-and-black pieces.

The Avenger's interior wears a little less expensive trim than the Chrysler 200 (with which it's closely related). It gets a new dash, which looks great, with convincing quantum leaps in style and materials. The Avenger's dash cap is sculpted a bit more over its gauges; the climate controls are streamlined, and rings of bright and matte metallic plastic are fine contrasts to most of the soft-touch plastic. The lower half of the Avenger's dash seems to wear lower-grade plastic than the 200, and some of the same carryover gauges and buttons are more noticeable, surrounded by better-quality bits.

6

2011 Dodge Avenger

Performance

The 2011 Dodge Avenger has improved powertrains, but it still lacks a cohesive driving feel, and an eagerness to use all its talents.

A 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder carries over from last year's Avenger as the base engine in the 2011 Dodge Avenger, but the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is new across the board to the Chrysler lineup. Firing up a V-6 Avenger for a short first drive, we found bucketloads of horsepower.

The new Chrysler V-6 drops 283 horsepower in the front-drive Avenger's engine bay, with 260 pound-feet of torque twisting through a six-speed automatic transmission. On the spec sheet, that's higher output than the new Sonata 2.0T turbo, the Fusion V-6 and the Regal GS. In practice, the smooth windup of the six just can't be controlled with the Avenger's small-car strut-and-multilink suspension. Mash the gas hard and the Avenger weaves on takeoff with corresponding steroidal twitches of torque steer before it takes a straight-ahead set.

Chrysler's new six-speed automatic isn't the best companion for the power. Especially in manual-shift mode, the Avenger lags out some downshifts with slow torque-converter lockup that feels like a drivetrain burp. A dual-clutch transmission is coming, but even with the stock six-speed automatic, a pair of paddles on the steering wheel would be safer and less distracting than the lever-controlled sport-shift mode.

The Avenger still has hydraulic power steering, augmented by a lower ride height in front than in back, which leaves it with more natural feedback and bite in its steering than most other mid-size sedans. Somehow, the effort still comes across as somewhat uninspired when matched with the powertrain issues, however.

7

2011 Dodge Avenger

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Dodge Avenger has been modestly improved in comfort, but its passenger and cargo space still suffer for the sake of styling.

Nearly identical to the Chrysler 200 in raw cubic feet and the way it's arranged, the 2011 Dodge Avenger has roughly the same interior space found in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, or the latest Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy, some of TheCarConnection's most highly rated four-doors. Head room and leg room are equal to or better than most, though the Avenger's trunk is on the small side of the scale.

The Avenger suffers some for the mini-Charger style—especially in the back seat. While the Sonata's tall, airy greenhouse lets in plenty of light, the Avenger's tall shoulders and low roofline—and dark trim most everywhere inside save for the upholstery—feels more confining, even though its flat but wide front seats have enough acreage for the target market. Tucking into the back seats is a little trickier than in some competitors because of the body structure's higher sills and lower roof cutouts (disguised very well by tall door skins).

Ride quality is actually quite good. The old Avenger had a reputation for a thrumming, pitchy ride. New tires, relocated suspension pieces, and better shocks shear off the sharp edges.

8

2011 Dodge Avenger

Safety

The Dodge Avenger has a good record for safety, and we anticipate that the 2011 model won't be much different.

In the past, the Avenger has scored very well on crash-test ratings, but 2011 scores aren't yet in.

The standard features list for the 2011 Avenger does include dual front, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; and active headrests. Advanced options like blind-spot detection and parking sensors aren't on the menu at all.

Outward visibility is considerably better than in most other small cars, thanks to a nice, low beltline with extra front and rear quarter-windows to help.

9

2011 Dodge Avenger

Features

The 2011 Dodge Avenger is no longer a class standout for features, but a well-equipped base model raises its value appeal.

In five different trims, the 2011 Dodge Avenger spreads out standard features and options. The Express is the base edition; stepping up the ladder to Mainstreet, Heat, Lux and R/T models adds on new gear.

All versions offer air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; 17-inch wheels; a split-folding rear seat; and cloth upholstery. Bluetooth, satellite radio and a USB port are unavailable on the base Avenger Express; they're standard or optional on other models, with better availability than in the Jetta but well off the mark set by the Sonata and the 2011 Kia Optima.

The options list for the Avenger is much smaller than it used to be. A navigation system is optional only on the top two trims; a dual-clutch gearbox comes to the lineup late in the model year, and only on the Avenger Lux. Other options include a a media center with 30-gigabyte capability and premium sound with Boston Acoustics speakers.

7

2011 Dodge Avenger

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Dodge Avenger isn’t quite as green as other mid-size sedans.

Fuel economy ratings for the 2011 Dodge Avenger are improved versus the 2010 model; four-cylinder Avenger models now get 21 mpg city, 30 highway, while the EPA rating with the new Pentastar V-6 is 19/29. That's thirstier than most rival mid-size sedan models.
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7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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